Posts Tagged ‘history’

I read this partly for interest, and partly as research for a future character. It stood up to both purposes really well.

We follow several hackers, most from Australia in the 1980/90s. They all have one thing in common. They like to hack.

It was interesting seeing into their mindsets. Often they’d get some kind of clue that the police were onto them and try to give up the habit, then go right back to it after a few weeks / months. Two who managed to stay away from hacking picked up drugs instead. They were that obsessed. They needed something to fill the void.

Addictive is a word used a lot in this book describing hacking. For a lot of cases in this book that seems spot on. Even those who didn’t think they were addicted admitted they were pretty darn obsessed.

The stories are engrossing and entertaining. They veer from depressing to humorous. The fact that it’s based on true stories makes it all the more interesting. This was the time when hacking was starting to become a thing. So the police didn’t have a clue how to deal with it, and the judges didn’t know how to sentence a crime like that, since it’d only recently become a crime.

Meanwhile the underground hackers were growing in number and skill. What I loved most was most of the hackers (but not all) seemed to be good guys. They were just curious. They didn’t want to hurt anything. They turned up their noses at carding (credit card fraud) and wouldn’t even consider selling any of the valuable information they found on company and military systems. One of the guys caused a problem on one of the systems by accident. Later on he entered the system again in order to fix it.

The book is well written, and rich with detail about each of the people interviewed. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those dry biographies that reads like a list of stats. We get into each of the guy’s heads and experience what they felt, why they did what they did, how their lives outside hacking influenced their behavior.

Fascinating stuff.

If you have an interest in this period of computer history, go check this out. Four stars from me. It lost a star because the ordering of some of the stories wasn’t that smooth. It’s mostly a good read though. Some of the transitions are just a little off.

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Here’s where my inner nerd shows through. One of my favorite periods of history to read about is world war two. Maus and Schindler’s Ark are two of my recent reads on the topic (both great books – check them out).

199 days: The Battle for Stalingrad is more of a textbook than those two. Maus is a graphic novel, and Schindler’s Ark is a set of autobiographical accounts put together to make a fantastic book that reads almost like a novel. Still, don’t let the word ‘textbook’ put you off. I found this an engaging read. It was easy to understand, and I read through it relatively quickly.

One major criticism of the book seems to be that it doesn’t go into enough detail. I’ll agree that it’s more of an overview, but it had enough details to be really interesting. It was published in 1999, so is a little out of date, but I enjoyed it. That’s important. So many history books can be dry and boring. This was one of the few that proved it doesn’t need to be that way. History is interesting, and world war two is one of the most interesting periods of history in my opinion. I don’t understand why some authors seem to go out of their way to make it sound like something designed to put you to sleep.

Though the focus of the book is Stalingrad (as hinted by the title), there’s an interesting overview of events leading up to the battle. It talks about Stalin’s purges, and Hitler’s overconfidence. The structure is sound, leading you through the events that led up to the battle, and then the battle itself, and then a little about afterward. It flowed well. There’s nothing worse for me than a history book that skips around. I find it all gets muddled up in my head as to what happened when. This laid it all out for me in a way that let me understand it.

In my opinion, if you’re interested in world war two like I am, then it’s worth a read. There are more up to date books out there, but few I’ve come across as engaging as this one.

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